At this national conference in San Francisco, I knew that lots of people would be interested in how Joyce “turned out,” so I planned my conference attire carefully. I know it sounds silly, but what else can you control besides your presentation? I orchestrated my 4 days at the conference to represent Joyce (or different parts of Joyce) accurately and professionally, not too frilly and not too butch. What I was hoping was that friends and colleagues would recognize the old me in the new presentation.

I began with black cord pants, tailored white dress shirt with stitching that resembles whale boning, and a sharp black and white jacket, along with patent black shoes. Second day was black/white wool dress slacks with a silk green blouse, no jacket, reprising the patent shoes. Third day was my big day, the day I was supposed to announce to a ballroom filled with participants the results of the committee I chaired this year, selecting the best dissertation of the year in my field. I chose a suit with a knee-length skirt and long jacket, subtle pinstripes of deep red, brown, and cream, and a dark red shell, along with brown heels and sheer black stockings. On the 4th and final day of the conference, I chose a brown-themed knee-length skirt and circle patterned blouse (red, gold, black, tan), and my brown heels with chocolate brown tights.

All four of these outfits were comfortable and served me well from early morning all day, well into the night. I cannot speak for others and how they perceived me, but for my own part, I feel these outfits helped me do what I wanted to do.

I got a bunch (75+) of fatty lumps (lipomas) removed last Thursday from my arms, legs, and torso, and it was done under general anesthesia. Some were small, but most were large, like flattened golf balls, and the result is that I’m very tender, especially around the waist.

What does this have to do with wardrobe?

Everything, because I simply cannot tolerate anything with a belt or a tight waist, probably for a couple of weeks. So when I talked this over with Mary Jo, she said, “One word: jumpers!” and proceeded to pull a variety of the garb out of our closet. My first impression, once I was wearing a long sleeve sweater to cover my arm-bandages, and once I had draped the jumper over my frame, was that I had suddenly become an elementary school teacher or maybe a granola-crunching NPR reporter.

My carefully-cultivated classic Ann Taylor look notwithstanding, I ventured out into the world with an oatmeal-colored sweater and dark green jumper, accompanied with low-heeled boots. Fashionable? I think that’s debatable. Comfortable? Absolutely, and that’s something that began growing on me within hours of interacting with people. “This is a look I could actually live with,” I found myself saying, “Maybe not all the time, but it’s fast and comfortable and not nearly the embarrassment I expected it to be.” Chalk it up to a severely limited repertoire of clothing images I hold in my imagination.

So for the next week, it’s jumpers and loose skirts whose tops can be worn either above or below my sensitive waist, mostly for the comfort, but partly for the experience of broadening the number of Joyce-performances there might be in the future.

Sometimes lately (and it’s not all the time), I don’t feel very real. You may laugh all you want and retort that I’m wrong, but what I’m feeling precisely is this: although I’ve left George far behind, I don’t feel particularly like Joyce (whatever that’s supposed to feel like). Naturally, one can’t force how one feels, but I wonder if part of the problem is the difference between what I imagined it would feel like to be Joyce and what it’s like actually being Joyce.

All outside observations aside, I find myself wondering what is the barrier to achieving that feeling, and it seems to me that such a feeling must be bound to be tied up in expectations. In other words, I wonder if I’m thinking of being Joyce as a choice between “either” and “or” (i.e. I’m either all woman, or I’m not real).

Logically, I find this all very funny because I know there is a large spectrum of reality between “all woman” and “nothingness,” and I tell myself I should just feel being myself right now, and be done with it. But this isn’t about logic, is it? It’s about feeling, and I can’t pinpoint whether this feeling comes from my head, my social circle, or my body, or maybe a bit of all three.

Let me be specific with you because this isn’t so much of an existential problem as a bodily one. What I know is that I am increasingly frustrated with my body, especially my hip-to-waist ratio. I guess I always pictured Joyce as voluptuous, but when my pants keep falling off of my non-hips (which is pretty funny when I look back on these events), I think I feel less than legitimate.

One voice in my head tells me that I have to try to let that frustration go, and embrace Joyce as she emerges because this feeling has nothing to do with trans*issues, but plain old body image issues. As I’ve learned from talking honestly with women this past year, everybody wishes she were just a little different: bustier, less hippy, thinner, and so on.

However, another voice tells me that my frustration (and my “let it go” remedy) isn’t nearly so clear cut, that while I’ve had years to imagine Joyce in a particular way, those imaginings were never terribly concrete, and that it’s perfectly fair to want the body to match the inner image.

The fact of the matter is that unless I want to have more surgeries, I may have to learn to live with what I’ve got. I will never have child-bearing hips from which to hang skirts and pants, but as my friend Violet often tells me, I have to learn to rock the body I’ve got. I like the sound of that — now I just need to learn how to do it.

After asking everyone I knew, after trying one of Mary Jo’s old one-piece suits, after studying catalogs, and after trying on swimming suits locally, I finally decided on this one from Lands’ End.

It looks good in the water and out of the water and is good for someone with my build. It’s conservative and does the job, especially considering I’m only going to be swimming in my own pool this summer. It’s nowhere as interesting as the one I thought might work for me in a previous blog post, but I began to really wonder how feasible that sort of thing would be for me this summer.

The important thing is not what sort of suit I’m wearing, but the fact that I feel ok with my body and that I’m spending time with Mary Jo and the boys in our swimming pool. It’s easy to get caught up in a clothing look, or a particular way of gesturing, or new makeup, but these family times together put everything back into perspective for me. This family is what is making my transition work, and I need to be reminded of that fact every time I think it’s all about me and only me.